Grassroots group warns against ‘restricting development’ on Basalt’s Pan and Fork
A group that favors development on Basalt’s Pan and Fork site organized a grassroots political-action committee Friday to give it a voice prior to the April 5 council election.
The group OneBasalt sent a direct-mail piece to Basalt postal customers and went live with its OneBasalt.org website Friday. One of its messages to voters is to look at the big picture in Basalt as the election nears.
The postcard said “restricting development” on the Pan and Fork could create a deficit for the town and potentially surrender future property and sales tax revenue.
“There are better ways to utilize taxpayer dollars, such as a Southside underpass, affordable housing, daycare facilities, improvements to existing parks and trails, or simply taxing less,” the postcard said.
The website takes a positive tone by emphasizing a number of qualities and goals that Basalt residents already agree on. It said the town should use “time-tested, proven strategies that other vitality-filled towns have employed” and the Town Council should make “financially sound decisions.”
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OneBasalt didn’t identify what it feels is the appropriate level of development on the 2.3 acres of the Pan and Fork site owned by Roaring Fork Community Development Corp.
“We’re not endorsing any square-footage amount,” Stacey Craft, one of the organizers of OneBasalt, said in an email in response to a question from The Aspen Times. “What we are endorsing is that citizens look beyond polarizing, nonproductive, non-fact-based rhetoric and instead intellectually consider the financial and social implications of ill-conceived town planning.
“The future of our town needs to be carefully considered from many angles. It simply isn’t possible for us to have a Southside underpass, affordable housing, senior services, more day care, etc., without paying for it and without carefully planning these amenities.”
Town looks at 55,000 square feet
The Basalt Town Council majority voted 4-3 Tuesday to proceed with planning on the Pan and Fork with as much as 55,000 square feet of development. Approximately half of the Community Development Corp.’s property would be converted to park in that scenario. In addition, the town government has already acquired nearly 3 acres alongside the Roaring Fork River for a park.
The town hired a third-party financial consultant last year to look at four different scenarios for the Pan and Fork, from no development to 75,000 square feet of mixed uses — and the financial implications for the town from each. Since then, the council has been working toward a compromise on the amount of development, but nothing is set in stone.
Richard Stumpf, another organizer of OneBasalt, told The Aspen Times on Thursday prior to the group’s unveiling that he was concerned about soaring property taxes. If people want to limit development but still add amenities, they will burden current residents with even higher taxes, he said.
Nick Aceto, a regular participant in Basalt civic issues and a member of OneBasalt, said the organization doesn’t necessarily want the maximum development and no additional park at the Pan and Fork site.
“I don’t think OneBasalt has a specific position in terms of maximum development, park or otherwise, but rather we think the process for arriving at those solutions should include some well-informed dialogue,” Aceto said in an email. “We should certainly consider the (consultants’) report but also balance the Our Town Citizen Planning data with professional design and planning input.
“We believe most everyone involved, regardless of their opinions about the Pan and Fork, is well-intentioned and wants what’s best for Basalt.”
A different citizens’ committee submitted a petition to the town in January urging the council to place a question on the April ballot to purchase the Community Development Corp.’s entire property for $3 million. The group favors maximizing the park and limiting development. Organizers obtained signatures of nearly 400 town voters.
The town staff and council ruled the petition was legally deficient and didn’t place the question on the ballot.
Cathy Click, an organizer of the group promoting expansion of the park, said the organization will establish its own website, probably this week. She said the group shares many goals and outlooks with OneBasalt.
“It’s not going to be an anti-OneBasalt,” Click said. “Everybody really wants the same thing. It’s just a difference in opinion about how to achieve it.”
Aceto expressed a similar view.
“Many of us believe the road to a more facilitative, collaborative community is paved by leadership,” he said. “Our leadership needs to set an example for the community and send the message that we’re willing and able to work together.”
No financial reporting required
Neither OneBasalt nor the pro-park citizens’ group has to register with the town of Basalt as a formal campaign issue committee. Town Clerk Pam Schilling said a committee only has to register when it is working on a ballot issue or promoting a candidate or candidates.
OneBasalt isn’t lobbying for a specific candidate. It has short biographies of both mayoral candidates and all six council candidates in the April election.
Since the groups don’t have to register, they don’t have to file financial reports detailing their spending or their donors.
Both groups have been upfront about their organizers. OneBasalt lists 37 organizers. Many of them have been in the thick of the Pan and Fork debate for the past 18 months, lobbying the town to embrace development at the site as a way to revitalize downtown. Some of the organizers who have been involved in the debate the longest are Aceto, Craft, Steve Chase, Joe and Larkin Ciri, Norm and Laura Clasen, Brian Dillard, Ted Guy, Bill and Kathy Hegberg, Bill Kane, Chris Touchette and Larry Yaw.
The pro-park citizens’ committee’s organizers include Click, Jon Fox-Rubin, Mark Harvey, Bel Carpenter, Pete McBride, Greg Shugars and Katie Schwoerer, a candidate for Town Council.
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